Offseason Update: Badgers Try Hand at Fashion Design

Hockey and high fashion don’t typically mix.  But when your team is owned by a fashion designer, which the Boston BadgersPaul Galette is, such an unusual scenario can become reality.

The Badgers just finished their most successful season ever, posting a .500 record for the first time.  It was a feel-good season for the team, and the players expressed a desire to get back together during the offseason.  Galette accommodated that desire with an unorthodox offer: he invited his players to spend a day at his fashion house, including an opportunity to design their own outfits.

“It’s definitely not a typical hockey-player activity,” said Galette.  “But I knew it would be a fun creative opportunity for them, and something that they don’t get to do every day.  So why not?”

Almost all of the Badgers showed up.  Some of them came because they wanted another chance to hang out with their teammates.  Some were genuinely interested in seeing how fashion houses work.  Others… well, in the words of RW Levi Rudyard: “I figured I’d have a chance to meet some models.”

When the players arrived, Galette took them on a brief tour of the house and introduced them to some of his fellow designers.  “It was pretty cool to meet them, really,” said LW Pascal Royal.  “They are in some ways like us.  Everyone thinks we just get to have fun all the time, but there is a lot of work into it.  Designing is the same.”

After that, the owner brought the players into a “collaboration space,” a room that allows designers to work together and bounce ideas off of one another.  The players gathered around a large table in the center of the room, where they were given paper and a variety of art supplies and invited to design their own outfits.

“I told them they could be as practical or as whimsical as they wanted to be,” Galette said.  “Designers can get their inspiration from anywhere: natural scenes, animals, things they see on the street.  There are no rules and no bad ideas.  Even something completely crazy or unworkable can light a spark that leads to a beautiful design in the end.”

The design session was a bit awkward at first because, as D Matt Cherner noted, “I haven’t done any drawing since I was in grade school.”  But eventually they warmed to the task, and they came up with a number of fascinating designs.  LW Casey Thurman drew an evening gown inspired by a peacock’s feathers.  Cherner designed a suit that resembled the Northern Lights.  G Roger Orion sketched out a tuxedo that featured the Badgers’ colors and logo.  D Brody “Bruiser” McCallan, meanwhile, designed a truly wild outfit which he described as “the world’s only pimp superhero.  Like Superfly, but even flyer.”

Little did the players know it, but Galette had another surprise in store for them.  After treating the team to a lavish lunch at a nearby restaurant, Galette announced that he would have their designs made into actual outfits.  And a couple weeks later, he invited them back to see those outfits on display, as he held a fashion show that the team streamed on YouTube.

“I knew they’d go gaga to see their designs brought to life,” Galette said.  “It’s an awesome feeling for any designer, the first time they see their designs in real life.”

The players reacted with laughter and delight as they saw their designs paraded up and down the runway.  And in additional to actual models, several of the players themselves took a turn on the catwalk.  Orion modeled his Badgers-colored tuxedo, saying “I wish I’d had this for my wedding, although my wife is probably glad I didn’t.”  Thurman modeled Cherner’s Northern Lights suit, and trilled “I Feel Pretty” in falsetto as he walked.  McCallan, meanwhile, not only donned his pimp-superhero costume, he also closed out the show by squeezing into Thurman’s peacock-feather dress.  As the burly blueliner sashayed along, his teammates laughed and catcalled.

“Yeah, they made fun,” said McCallan, “but only because they didn’t want to admit that I totally rocked the dress.”

All in all, it was a fun team-building event, and the players thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  “If you’d told me I was going to love designing fashion outfits, I’d have called you crazy,” said C Alain Beauchesne.  “But these were memories I will keep for all my life.  Except for the Bruiser in that dress… that I hope to forget.”

2020 SHL Eastern All-Star Roster

The roster for the 2020 Eastern Division All-Stars, as announced by coach Keith Shields, was as follows:

First Line:

LW: Steven Alexander, Hamilton.  Last year, the voting in the East was dominated by fans of the Pistols and New York Night, the latter of which hosted the game.  Without the draw of hosting and with the Night’s lackluster record this year, votes from the New York metro area dipped considerably, while backers of defending champion Hamilton came out in force to support their heroes.  Alexander was the league’s top vote-getter, earning his fourth straight trip to the game and his third appearance in the starting lineup.  Although the feisty winger’s numbers are not quite up to his career norms, he is tied for the league lead in goals with 21.

D: Clayton “Crusher” Risch, Hamilton.  Backed by the voting power of the Greater Toronto Area, Risch was the top vote-getter among Eastern defenseman, making his second All-Star appearance and his first start.  The 24-year-old is on track for a career season; he’s already scored more goals in the first half (8) than he ever has in an entire year.  He isn’t just an offensive force, either; he continues to deliver strong play in his own end.  His 73 blocks is the second-most among Eastern players.

C: Justin Valentine, Hershey.  In something of an upset, Valentine managed to hold off Hamilton’s Calvin Frye to make his first All-Star start since 2017.  Valentine is the leading man in Hershey’s famous “Love Line,” and he’s producing in line with his top season.  He’s currently in third place in goals with 20 and tied for third in points with 42.  He’s also among the top ten in plus-minus at +14, a distinction he shares with his fellow Love Liners.

D: Matt Cherner, Boston.  In another upset, Cherner surged into second place, ahead of Hershey’s Reese Milton and New York’s Dominic Sanchez, who have been the East’s starting defensemen in each previous All-Star Game.  Cherner reportedly benefited from a strong crossover vote, as fans from his previous teams in Dakota and Quebec cast ballots for him in significant numbers.  It’s his second All-Star appearance, and his debut representing the East; he showed up on the West’s roster back in 2018.  Like his fellow top-pairing blueliner Risch, Cherner has 8 goals and 28 points so far this season.

RW: Claude Lafayette, Hamilton.  The Pistols’ rabid voting base lifted Lafayette to his first ever All-Star start (and only his second overall start), appearing alongside his longtime teammate and friend Alexander.  Lafayette won his spot by less than 5,000 votes over Hershey’s Christopher Hart and New York’s Rick Nelson.  Lafayette is one of the league’s elite passers, and it’s no surprise that he leads the SHL in assists with 35.  His 42 points overall ties him with Valentine for the league’s third-highest total.

 

Second Line:

LW: Lance Sweet, Hershey.  Shields mentioned during the lineup announcement that he has a great deal of respect for the Bliss, Hamilton’s fiercest rival.  His admiration came through in his picks, as he tapped three Bliss players (in addition to starter Valentine) to the lineup.  It’s the second All-Star selection for Sweet, who also appeared in the SHL’s inaugural midseason contest in 2017.  Sweet is a highly deserving choice; he leads the league in points with 44, and is in the top 10 in both goals (16) and assists (28).

D: Raymond Smyth, Hamilton.  Shields’ respect for Hershey was topped only by his affection for his own squad; the coach selected four players from his Vandy-winning, division-leading Pistols.  The veteran Smyth, though, is no homer pick; his 30 points are tied for the highest total among SHL defensemen, and his 26 assists are tied for fifth in the league overall.  He also leads the league in plus-minus rating with +17.  It’s Smyth’s third trip to the All-Star Game, making a reappearance in the lineup after a one-year absence.

C: Calvin Frye, Hamilton.  After Frye was beaten out by Valentine for the starting center spot, there was no doubt that Shields was going to tab his star for a spot.  Frye is only of only four Eastern players to have appeared in every All-Star contest to date.  Frye is tied with his teammate Alexander for the league lead in goals with 21, and his 43 points is the second highest total in the SHL.  “I’ll bet this is the last time for a long time that Calvin isn’t the starter,” said Shields.  “If he keeps producing the way he has been, he’s going to make it impossible for the fans to ignore.  He’s just a special, special player.”

D: Hercules Mulligan, Hamilton. It’s the third straight All-Star appearance for the 22-year-old Mulligan and the third appearance for a Hamilton defenseman in this lineup.  It’s the first time since 2017 that a single team landed a trio of blueliners on the roster; Michigan was the last team to accomplish the feat. The hard-hitting Mulligan brings an extra edge of the Eastern roster; his 68 blocks is sixth in the SHL and second on the Pistols to his linemate Risch.

RW: Christopher Hart, Hershey.  Hart joins his linemates Sweet and Valentine on the East roster.  Surprisingly, Hart is the only one of the trio who has appeared in every All-Star contest, though he has never started.  Like his fellow Love Liners, Hart is in the top ten in the league in points (39), assists (26), and plus-minus (+14).  “Last year, I had to carry the Love Line banner all by myself at the game,” said Hart.  “This time, I’ll be there with both my brothers, and that’s the way it ought to be.”

 

Third Line:

LW: Magnus Gunnarson, Hamilton.  At a loaded position, Shields tapping his own player again generated some controversy around the league.  Many felt that New York’s Chase Winchester or Boston’s Casey Thurman would be a more fitting choice.  But Gunnarson is having a strong season in his own right.  He has produced 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) at the halfway point.  And when Alexander missed several games with an injury in the first half, Gunnarson stepped in and kept the Pistols from missing a beat.  It all adds up to an All-Star debut for the 24-year-old winger.

D: Reese Milton, Hershey.  It’s the first time that Milton won’t be starting in an All-Star Game, but the Bliss blueliner keeps his string of appearances alive.  Milton’s offensive numbers (8 goals, 17 assists) are a tick below his career norms, but he remains as defensively strong as ever; his 77 blocks are the most in the East, and he maintains a solid +8 rating.

C: Alain Beauchesne, Boston.  The 22-year-old Beauchesne receives his second straight All-Star nod; his selection marks the first time that the Badgers have had more than one honoree.  This was another somewhat controversial choice: Night fans argued that Brock Manning should have gotten the call, while DC fans clamored for Harvey Bellmore.   But Shields went with the youngster, who leads Boston with 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists).

D: Richard McKinley, Quebec.  The 21-year-old blueliner is the Tigres’ lone representative this year, and he makes his debut in the All-Star game.  Quebec is suffering through considerable offensive struggles this season, but McKinley is a relatively bright spot, having recorded 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists).  He also is tied for the team lead in blocks with 65.

RW: Jefferson McNeely, Washington.  Like the Tigres, the Galaxy have only one All-Star representative.  This season, the honors go to McNeely, who will make his third appearance in the game.  He is second on the Washington roster in goals (with 11) and points (with 27).  “Honestly, I would have given it to Harvey,” said McNeely.  “But it they want me to go again, sure, I’ll go.”

 

Goalies:

Lasse Koskinen, Hamilton.  In a season when many of the East’s traditional top goalies are having down seasons, Koskinen’s solid performance and Hamilton’s strong voting base combined to earn the Pistols netminder his third straight All-Star trip and his second start.  Koskinen struggled in the opening weeks of the season, but he has improved as the season has gone along.  His 15 wins are second-most in the SHL; that achievement appears to have overshadowed his somewhat-subpar 3.14 GAA and .915 save percentage.

“Jersey Mike” Ross, New York.  With Shields in charge of choosing the East’s roster, is it a surprise that Ross is the lone Night player to make the All-Star squad?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  But the veteran goaltender, who is another first-time All-Star, has had a surprisingly strong season.  Believe it or not, Ross has the highest save percentage (.923) among starting goalies in the East.  After planned starter Sherman Carter imploded, Ross stepped in as the primary starter and has helped keep the Night afloat in the playoff race.

Jackalopes Player Says Team Should Move

The Dakota Jackalopes financial struggles have been an open secret around the SHL for several seasons now.  The team has parted with almost all of its high-salaried players, cutting their payroll to the lowest in the league.  Unsurprisingly, the team’s record has declined along with its payroll, and attendance has drooped as well, a vicious cycle for the league’s smallest market.

By and large, Dakota’s players have been quiet about the team’s off-ice troubles.  Last season, goalie Christien Adamsson attacked the organization as “cheap” in a postgame rant.  (Adamsson wound up signing with Hershey as a free agent in the offseason.) While some of Adamsson’s teammates acknowledged the truth of his gibes off the record, they haven’t publicly expressed any reservations about the team’s situation.

Joe Freelander

That changed this week, when LW “Jumbo Joe” Freelander – frustrated with the lack of progress on his contract negotiations – spoke bluntly about the Jackalopes’ financial limits.  Not only that, he went farther still, calling for the team to be sold and moved.

Freelander spoke to the media after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Michigan.  The winger’s rookie deal expires at the end of next season, and he said that his agent has been trying to discuss an extension with GM Paul Mindegaard.  “And what he keeps hearing is, ‘Sure, great, we want to get this done, we’ll get back to you with an offer,’ and nothing happens.”  Freelander said that his agent tried proposing a figure to get things moving, only to receive the same polite but noncommittal response from Mindegaard.

“Eventually, I realized that last year they did the same thing to Matt,” said Freelander, referring to ex-teammate Matt Cherner.  The Jackalopes stated, publicly and privately, that they wanted to sign Cherner to an extension.  But they reportedly never put forth a firm offer, and they ultimately traded him to the Quebec Tigres at the deadline.  Cherner signed with the Boston Badgers in the offseason.

“And if that’s the game, they should just say so,” said Freelander.  “If the real story is that they can’t find enough change between the couch cushions to re-sign me and they’re going to let me go, then be honest.  At least then I know where I stand.  But let’s skip the song and dance.”

Freelander went on, “I mean, we all know that this is a tiny market, and the crowds are getting smaller and smaller.  We’ve got eyes.  But if you’re so broke that you can’t keep key players like Matt and me, then shouldn’t they be looking at moving this team somewhere else?  I know nobody wants to say that, and we’re all supposed to pretend it’s going to work out.  But at some point, someone needs to tell the truth.”

Mindegaard claimed that Freelander and his agent his misunderstood the situation.  “It’s true that Joe’s agent has contacted us about an extension, which I appreciate,” the Jackalopes GM said.  “I told him that we were still evaluating our plans, and that we’d get back to him once we had a clearer sense of things.  I’m sure Joe was disappointed by that, but it’s just the business.”

The GM argued, as he has in the past, that claims about the team’s financial straits were overblown.  “Has attendance been where we’d like it to be this year?  No it hasn’t,” said Mindegaard.  “We’re in the middle of a rebuild, and we knew that could happen.  But it’s irresponsible to claim that this market can’t support a team, or that the team needs to move.  I’m fully committed, and ownership is committed, to making it work here in Dakota for the long haul.”

Jackalopes coach Flim Dahlgren, who reportedly considered resigning in the offseason due to concern about the direction of the team’s rebuild, declined to comment on Freelander’s remarks.  “Joe is a grown man and is entitled to his opinion,” Dahlgren said.  “As for my opinion, I don’t have one.  Team finances are not my responsibility, which is fortunate for everyone.  I am focused on my coaching, and that’s how I’ll keep it.”

Interview of the Week: Matt Cherner

This week’s interview is with Quebec Tigres D Matt Cherner.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week with perhaps the biggest name to be dealt at this year’s trading deadline, Matt Cherner.  Matt, thanks for speaking with us.

Matt Cherner
Matt Cherner

Matt Cherner: Hello there.  We meet again!

SHLD: Yes, indeed!  We spoke to you last year, when you were a member of the Dakota Jackalopes.  At the time, you expressed a clear desire to stay and sign an extension.  A year later, you find yourself playing for another team and heading into free agency after the season.  What are your thoughts on that?

MC: Well, obviously, things didn’t work out like I thought.  I’d played my whole professional career with Dakota, and I wanted to stick around, even though it’s obvious that it’s going to be a rebuild there.  I felt a connection to the city and the fans.

SHLD: Your love for the team and the city was obvious.  When the trade went down, you broke down while you were talking to reporters about it.

MC: Yeah, that was huge for me, since I’m not a real emotional-type guy.  But it hit me like I was leaving home, because that’s what Dakota was to me.

SHLD: Did you have any conversations with the team about an extension before you were dealt?

MC: Yeah.  We tried to, at least.  Going into [last] offseason, my agent and I thought it would be great to go ahead and get the contract done, so that we wouldn’t have it hanging over us all season.  But [the Jackalopes] didn’t really engage.  They’d say things like, “We really appreciate you, and we want to get something done when the time is right,” but when it came time to talk numbers and term, they wouldn’t commit.

SHLD: That must have been tough for you, given your commitment to the team.

MC: Definitely.  We made it clear that I’d consider a bit of a hometown discount, but it didn’t help.  We threw some numbers at them to try to get things moving, and they’d say, “We don’t know if we can do that.”  We’d ask for a counter, and they wouldn’t.  So that was frustrating, but at least it let me know that the writing was on the wall.

SHLD: There have been a lot of rumors that the Jackalopes are in financial trouble.  Based on your negotiations, or lack thereof, do you think that’s true?

MC: I’m not going to speculate about that, because I don’t really know.  They never opened their books to show me or anything.  Besides, I’m focused on the future and looking forward, not back at the past.

SHLD: Fair enough!  Let’s talk about your new team, then.  How has your transition to the Tigres gone so far?

MC: It’s been really great.  All the guys have welcomed me, and the minute I set foot in the clubhouse, it was like I’d been there for years.  This is a team with a strong camaraderie and a good sense of their identity, and I feel like I’ve fit in great.

SHLD: And how has it been adjusting to life in Quebec?

MC: I like it!  Obviously, the vibe there is different than it is in Rapid City, but they both have that kind of small-town feel that I like.  If I’d been moving to, say, New York, it would have been a different thing.  And the fans in Quebec are really passionate, at least as much as the Dakota fans.  I couldn’t have asked for a much better environment for going somewhere new.

SHLD: The Tigres are hanging around the periphery of the Eastern playoff race, but they haven’t been able to break through so far.  What do you think the team needs to do in order to get back to the playoffs?

MC: We’ve just got to keep playing the disciplined, heavy hockey that we’re known for.  On offense, we’re doing a good job looking for quality shots.  Maybe if we can open it up a bit and activate the D a little more on offense, that would be good.  Mostly, I think we keep playing our game and good things will happen, especially once we get Zarko [C Drustan Zarkovich] and Fisk [LW Stellan Fisker] back.

SHLD: One last question: As we mentioned at the top of the interview, you’ll be a free agent at the end of the season.  Based on what you’ve seen with the Tigres so far, could you see yourself re-signing here?

MC: Hey, who knows where life takes me, right?  At the end of the season, I’ll be looking at my options and see whether they’re interested in me.  But I can definitely tell you that nothing I’ve seen so far would make me not want to stay here long-term.

SHLD: Sounds good!  Thanks again for your time, Matt, and good luck the rest of the season.

MC: Appreciate it.  The stretch run’s going to be crazy!